By: Gina Lodolo (African Antitrust)
On 14 March 2022, the South African Competition Commission (“Commission”) referred a complaint against Meta Platforms Inc is the parent company of WhatsApp Inc (“WhatsApp”) and Facebook South Africa (hereafter jointly “Meta”), to the Competition Tribunal (“Tribunal”) for allegedly engaging in abuse of dominance.
The referral follows WhatsApp (as part of the Meta group) attempting to off-board GovChat from the WhatsApp platform. GovChat is a chatbot service connecting government to millions of citizens on issues of public concern (e.g. information on COVID-19 vaccinations and social grants). GovChat is reliant on the WhatsApp platform to function and connect users, without which its entire existence will be prejudiced.
GovChat utilizes WhatsApp for their services due to WhatsApp’s scale and consumer reach, however, Meta has attempted to off-board GovChat by placing reliance on WhatsApp’s terms and conditions to enforce a restriction against monetisation of confidential information through the use of consumer data obtained on the platform.
In this regard, the Commissions media release notes that “Facebook has imposed and/or selectively enforced exclusionary terms and conditions regulating access to the WhatsApp Business API, mainly restrictions on the use of data”.